Room treatments are, in my experience, mixed bags. There is a thin line between damping resonances and overdamping the entire musical presentation. The trouble is that most traps and wall panels damp or diffuse more or less everything equally above and below certain frequencies—they act like shotguns in situations in which you need pea-shooters. Up until now I’ve preferred to mix non-traditional items, like the Shakti Hallographs (which dramatically change soundstaging, timbre, and dynamics without much of a concomitant dampening effect), with a smattering of diffusors like RPG Skylines or Abfusors, which do provide some dampening of specular highlights (and are excellent when used behind the listening position or behind speakers or both).
My mix of Hallographs and RPG items has worked just swell in my upstairs listening room, but recently I turned my downstairs study into a second listening room and though it is virtually the same size as the room above it (albeit with slightly taller ceilings) it sounds more alive and echoic. Enter Norm Varney of A/V RoomService, Ltd.
Norm is the guy who designed the whole-room acoustical treatment that Robert Harley uses. Of course, the panels and traps that Robert uses are built into his walls and ceilings and took a tremendous amount of computer-modeling to perfect. I didn’t want the whole enchilada. I wanted something that would tame the first reflections of the CLXes (which, unlike most dipoles, do project sound toward the side walls because their panels are curved) and also handle a particularly irksome 100Hz bass node.
A/V RoomService Ltd. is the wholly independent company that Norm and Harry Alter (Senior Engineer at Owens Corning Science & Technology Center) started. Both Norm and Harry are highly educated, highly experienced acousticians. Their products aren’t playthings and they don’t install them willy-nilly. I was asked to send Norm a to-scale drawing of my study, with all the dimensions carefully recorded, and to supplement this with photographs that illustrated unusual architectural features (like a built-in bookcase in one corner or a fireplace along one wall). From these data Norm generated an acoustic model of my space—and its primary resonances.
I was interested in something portable—something I could freely move around (or remove if I didn’t like its effect). Happily, AVRS had just introduced its “Metu” Acoustic Panel products—wall-hanging acoustic panels designed to “blend into” listening rooms rather than to give them the decorated-with-egg-crates-look of most acoustic panels, as if your interior decorator were Tyson Farms. The Metu products can be painted to precisely match walls or can be made to look like framed photographs, posters, or prints (of your choosing). Covered in a porous fabric and/or capable of accepting drum-scanned artwork, the Metus’ 1.25″ high-frequency-equalizing acoustic panels (and their backerboards) provide reactive and diaphragmatic absorption from about 100Hz to above 8kHz—perfect for first reflections, while their 1.25″-thick, tuned, bass-equalizing corner traps work the same trick from about 50Hz to above 8kHz. (Some assembly is required with each item.) Both are said to achieve an average “noise reduction coefficient” of 1.00 (whatever that means).
The panels can be had in various sizes and, of course, finishes (and so can the wood backerboards). After a bit of computer-modeling based on the data I’d sent him, Norm recommended a “starter kit” for my study, consisting of four wall/ceiling Metu panels and four corner traps.
Frankly, on the basis of past experience, I wasn’t sure I was going to like the effect of AVRS Metus, but I did. They seemed (and seem) to precisely solve the problems I was having with first reflections and midbass resonance, without softening dynamics or desaturating timbres. On the contrary, dynamics were improved and so were density of tone color, imaging, and soundstaging. Pretty damn impressive. Downside? I can’t say this was problem for me, but as with all room treatments it is possible, I’d guess, that too many of the very effective Metus might overdamp a space, so stick with Varney’s recommendations and don’t overdo it.
I still use my Shakti Hallographs in addition to Metus, but at this point I can’t imagine listening without A/V RoomService’s panels and traps. They simply work too well not to use them. Highly recommended.
A/V RoomService “Metu” Acoustic Panels
Dimensions: 24″ x 48″ x 3″ (wall/ceiling panels); 23″ x 40.75″ x 11.25″ (corner traps)
Weight: 12 lbs. (wall/ceiling panels); 17 lbs. (corner traps)
Price: $199 (wall/ceiling panels); $495 (Corner Traps)
A/V RoomService, Ltd.
9282 Jug StreetNW
Pataskala, OH 43062
By Jonathan Valin
I’ve been a creative writer for most of life. Throughout the 80s and 90s, I wrote eleven novels and many stories—some of which were nominated for (and won) prizes, one of which was made into a not-very-good movie by Paramount, and all of which are still available hardbound and via download on Amazon. At the same time I taught creative writing at a couple of universities and worked brief stints in Hollywood. It looked as if teaching and writing more novels, stories, reviews, and scripts was going to be my life. Then HP called me up out of the blue, and everything changed. I’ve told this story several times, but it’s worth repeating because the second half of my life hinged on it. I’d been an audiophile since I was in my mid-teens, and did all the things a young audiophile did back then, buying what I could afford (mainly on the used market), hanging with audiophile friends almost exclusively, and poring over J. Gordon Holt’s Stereophile and Harry Pearson’s Absolute Sound. Come the early 90s, I took a year and a half off from writing my next novel and, music lover that I was, researched and wrote a book (now out of print) about my favorite classical records on the RCA label. Somehow Harry found out about that book (The RCA Bible), got my phone number (which was unlisted, so to this day I don’t know how he unearthed it), and called. Since I’d been reading him since I was a kid, I was shocked. “I feel like I’m talking to God,” I told him. “No,” said he, in that deep rumbling voice of his, “God is talking to you.” I laughed, of course. But in a way it worked out to be true, since from almost that moment forward I’ve devoted my life to writing about audio and music—first for Harry at TAS, then for Fi (the magazine I founded alongside Wayne Garcia), and in the new millennium at TAS again, when HP hired me back after Fi folded. It’s been an odd and, for the most part, serendipitous career, in which things have simply come my way, like Harry’s phone call, without me planning for them. For better and worse I’ve just gone with them on instinct and my talent to spin words, which is as close to being musical as I come.More articles from this editor
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